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Visiting Rights

A Greenwich, Conn., school board member who likes to drop in on local classrooms could face the long arm of the law if she does it again without written permission from the district.

John Whritner, the superintendent of the 7,000-student system, has warned Anne Simpson that she could be charged with trespassing if she goes to school without first getting his consent.

Mr. Whritner said he restricted the board member's access to the Greenwich schools after two principals complained.

The principals said Ms. Simpson "berated" teachers in front of students and disrupted their lessons, Mr. Whritner said.

But Ms. Simpson said she only observes teachers and students at work when she visits a school. However, she added, she's not afraid to point out a few things that could use improvement.

"A visit from a board of education person can be somewhat intimidating," she acknowledged.

But her duty is to the parents who have elected her for two terms, she said.

"I was doing my responsibility," Ms. Simpson said. "We're the eyes and ears of the public, and the superintendent shouldn't tell us when we should or shouldn't go into schools."

This isn't the first time the six-year veteran of the board has found herself on the outside.

Ms. Simpson said she has disagreed with several other policies supported by the superintendent and the rest of the eight-member board, which also backs limiting members' visiting rights.

Superintendent Whritner said that he agrees that board members should make occasional visits.

"But they have no more rights than other citizens," he said. "They're not allowed to roam the schools."

The district is planning to make some changes in its visiting policy--even though Mr. Whritner said he's never had a problem with other board members abusing their privileges.

"Our primary responsibility is to the instructional program," he added, noting that some teachers said Ms. Simpson had wandered around their classrooms and looked over students' shoulders as they worked.

"For the most part, I think teachers appreciate" the visits, Ms. Simpson said. "Maybe not the administrators."

--Joanna Richardson

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